Panic attacks are extremely difficult to deal with, and even harder to cure. One of the reasons it can be difficult to cure panic attacks is because thinking about panic attacks and fearing panic attacks actually causes panic attacks. That means that for the person suffering, the work you do to cure your panic can unfortunately create more panic attacks than they help.
That's why so many people choose to turn to therapy, where they can receive some of the help that they need from trained experts. But since not everyone wants to go to therapy, the following are some of the ways that you can reduce your panic disorder at home.
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At Home Relief
There is no denying that self-help for panic attacks is desirable. But it can be an uphill battle. Individual treatments often don't work. You'll probably need a more comprehensive strategy like the one you'll find by taking my anxiety test.
However, the following represent seven different strategies that are known to be effective at helping you fight panic attacks. Before we begin, there are two things to note:
- You may still have panic attacks while you're fighting it. This is normal.
- Incremental changes are important. If you can reduce either the frequency or the severity of your anxiety attacks, your likelihood of fearing the attacks in the future decreases, and so too will your likelihood of getting them as a result.
So keep in mind that if you still suffer from panic attacks while you're treating them, this is completely normal. In some cases, you may even need to subject yourself to one to help treat it.
Tip 1: Re-Learn to Breathe
Most of the symptoms of panic attacks are actually due to hyperventilation. Hyperventilation, contrary to popular belief, is a lack of carbon dioxide due to breathing too quickly or too deeply. Your body actually needs carbon dioxide in order to function, so without it panic attacks become more likely.
What's strange is that when you hyperventilate, your body actually experiences what's known as a paradoxical effect - it makes you feel like you're not getting enough oxygen, so you try to breathe deeper or yawn only to make your hyperventilation worse. Hyperventilation causes symptoms like rapid heartbeat, trouble breathing, chest pains, tingling hands and feet, lightheadedness, and more.
So you need to re-learn to breathe when you have panic attacks in order to reduce the symptoms of panic attacks, and ultimately their severity. There are countless deep breathing strategies, but the simplest is the following:
- When you start to feel panicky, immediately take a slow, deep breath.
- Hold the breath for about 2 or 3 seconds - not too much longer.
- Make your lips like you're about to whistle and breathe out slowly.
Repeat as necessary. Note that it is very hard to completely stop hyperventilation once it's started, so don't expect this to completely stop any attack, but it can and should decrease the severity of the attack and will help reel in your breathing.
Tip 2: Calling Someone
Panic attacks are cascading physical reactions. Everything seems to get worse over time until ultimately it peaks and slowly fades away. Much of this cascading reaction occurs because you feel and focus on everything. People with panic attacks often find that they're essentially stuck in their own head, unable to come out.
One method of "coming out of your head" is to simply call someone. Talking on the phone is a very sensory experience. You need to focus on what the person is saying, you can tell them everything that you're experiencing and everything that's on your mind, and you can make sure that your senses are distracted.
This activity may seem simple, and you do need to call someone that cares about you - someone you can talk about your symptoms with whenever they occur and someone that knows you may call them when you're about to have a panic attack - but it reduces the focus on what you're feeling which can and does often fight the severity of a panic attack.
Tip 3: Triggering The Panic
One self-help strategy that most people do not enjoy - but one that is effective nonetheless - is to let yourself trigger a panic attack. This is especially true if you find yourself getting panic attacks in certain locations. For example, getting a panic attack any time you're in the mall.
If that sounds like you, then you need to face your fear and let the panic attack get triggered. It may seem nonsensical, but remember that many panic attacks are caused by a fear of panic attacks. The more you fear your symptoms and experiences, the more likely you'll have attacks. By going to a place and accepting that a panic attack may occur (and then going about your day when it's over), you reduce that fear, which can help reduce panic attacks in the future.
Remember to Use a COMPREHENSIVE Strategy
Even though these tips are designed to help you, a comprehensive strategy is still much more important. Take my anxiety test to find out more.
Tip 4: Exposure Therapy
There is a strategy used in psychologists' offices that can be used in the comfort of your own home. It's not always recommended, because sometimes it helps to have someone around you when you're going to do this activity, but you can do it alone or with a friend if you're up to it.
It's known as exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is a slow process that is designed to reduce the reaction you have to panic triggers. Many panic attacks are "triggered" by physical sensations, because panic makes people more sensitive to the way that they feel. Sensations like dizziness, rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness - things that can be completely normal end up triggering a flood of anxiety which eventually leads to a panic attack.
Exposure therapy is a technique designed to reduce the reaction that you have to these physical triggers. It utilizes the body's naturally ability to adapt to fear in order to decrease the potential for triggering these attacks. The best way to understand this is to explain how it would work. Let's say that your panic attack is caused by dizziness:
· Find a comfortable environment. Consider having a friend around you too.
- Spin around in a circle.
- Wait until the dizziness has subsided.
- Spin around in a circle again.
- Continue until you are used to feeling dizzy.
- Repeat in different environments.
This simple strategy helps you get used to some of the most common panic attack triggers. You can do other things as well, such as hyperventilate on purpose (talk to your doctor before doing this), hold your breath, drink extra caffeine (which speeds up heart rate) and more. All of these create physical sensations that can cause panic attacks, thus allowing you to get used to them.
Tip 5: Spinning Rings
Remember that the most important thing to do is to try to get out of your head. Since that's easier said than done, it's not a bad idea to perform some sort of repetitive activity when you're going through a panic attack so that you're actively doing something that keeps you from being too focused on your mind. It's also not a bad idea if you can associate this activity with better breathing, like in tip 1.
With that in mind, consider purchasing a ring or spinner ring and slowly twisting that ring if you're going through a panic attack alone and/or unable to call someone. Spin the ring slowly, and while you're spinning use it as a reminder of how to breathe better. By focusing your mind on an activity (spinning the ring), and helping yourself remember how to reduce symptoms through better breathing, you create an environment that will cause you less serious attacks.
Stopping the Panic Attacks is Not the First Step
It would be great if there was a panic attack off switch, but there isn't. Unfortunately, if you have panic attacks and panic disorder, you can't expect them to stop overnight. Even those that take powerful tranquilizers often still get mini attacks.
But you can reduce the frequency and severity of your panic attacks, which in turn will decrease how much they bother you, and if you can get them to bother you less, your panic attacks will grow less frequent and less severe. If you also combine those improvements with a lot of life activities (meaning you try your best to live an amazing life despite your panic attacks) you can see marked decreases in your overall anxiety levels.
For a more comprehensive strategy, however, make sure you take my free 7 minute anxiety test. This test provides you with powerful tools that can help you stop your anxiety and keep it from coming back.